Storage is exciting. When was the last time you read those three words together? After many months of watching new SSDs slam into the SATA interface’s 6 Gb/s ceiling, PCI Express and NVMe are popping the cork and letting those IOPS flow freely. Of course, not all drives are created equal. A less-constrained bus means differences between controllers, flash technologies, and firmware maturity stand out.
You’ll have to pay particular attention to the nomenclature, too. Some M.2-based slots are wired to SATA; others connect to PCIe. From there, many motherboard vendors route their M.2 slots through the chipset’s slower second-gen lanes. More enthusiast-oriented implementations reserve a third-gen link to the CPU. And then there are the M.2 drives that drop onto an adapter card and plug into an available expansion slot.
That’s not to say vanilla 2.5-inch SATA-attached SSDs are suddenly boring. How quickly we forget what Windows feels like on a 7200rpm hard disk. No, today’s top solid-state drives offer more performance than most of us can use. They’re a lot less expensive than the premium PCIe-based stuff, too.
Don’t forget your hard drive. It remains the lowest level of any tiered desktop storage setup, providing plenty of capacity for not a lot of money. Dump movies, music, pictures, and documents on there—basically, anything that wouldn’t benefit from the speed of an SSD (and consequently doesn’t need to live on flash memory).